Opinion | Susan Knopf: Is it time to say goodbye to Facebook?
The latest news about the political data firm Cambridge Analytica is truly alarming and deeply troubling. The company reportedly gained access to the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission. But to make it worse, Cambridge is believed to have influenced the behavior of American voters on Facebook in the 2016 General Election. The company essentially tapped into the likes and dislikes of Facebook users and all their friends to exploit their emotions in favor of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
If you follow the money, Cambridge was largely funded by wealthy Republican donor Robert Mercer and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon not only sat on the Cambridge Analytica board, he also wanted to develop an “arsenal of information weapons” that would change our political culture.
Now I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this stinks like a feral hog! All the talk about the Russians meddling in our election and now this! As a Facebook user myself, I’ve witnessed some of the most divisive political drivel I could ever possibly imagine, posts from my “so-called friends” that were ugly, angry and unbelievable. So a wonderful service started up 14 years ago by Mark Zuckerberg to bring people together and share common interests has now been weaponized. Facebook has become the ultimate manipulator of thought, behavior and sensibility.
If you are like me, you probably wake up in the morning and check your phone for the latest emails. Then you go onto Facebook and see what’s up with your friends. I usually focus on what my friends have posted first and then check the general feed. And this is a practice that happens every day at least two or three times a day. So when we read posts from people who choose to just share something, without checking its validity or accuracy, just because the content matches personal ideology and opinion, we are being influenced and manipulated. And if you agree with the content and continue to share it, you are also part of the problem.
This latest revelation about Cambridge Analytica points to an issue we all have seen and either passed off or asked, “How did they do that?” and never received an answer. Have you ever shopped for something on your web browser? Let’s says you were looking at new ski boots. Funny thing, you later go on to Facebook and what do you see embedded into your general feed? You see several vendors selling ski boots. Coincidence? Not at all. Your surfing habits on the internet are all being picked up by Facebook and our right to privacy is under attack.
So I am now giving serious consideration to shutting down my two Facebook pages. It’s too bad. I like sharing the good things in my life with my family and friends. I like seeing the good things happening with them as well. But I wonder, with all the negativity, anger and frankly fake news being perpetuated on Facebook, if it’s really worth my time and attention. This is an unprecedented multiple manipulation of our public thought and a challenge to the fabric of our democracy. Stay tuned, I absolutely expect to see Congressional hearings on this breach of the public trust.
Jonathan Knopf is a full-time resident of Silverthorne and a broadcast news professional for the past 40 years.
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